Even the most minimalist of minimalists will eventually have to get rid of stuff – clothes that no longer fit, outdated electronics, broken plates… you get the picture. Landfills should be the very last resort. They take up precious land, emit methane (a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change), and can leach toxic sludge into the ground water. In the 3rd and final installment of my Conscious Consumption series, here are things to consider before chucking your unwanted items to the curb (and ultimately, the landfill).
Hosting a clothing or stuff swap is a great way to get together with friends and neighbours. Everyone brings items they don’t have use for any more and then you all shop from the swap piles. Make it a fun evening with food, drink, etc. Ideally you’ll leave with less stuff than you brought – see the next tips for ways of getting rid of what’s left over.
Donate or Sell
One person’s trash really is another person’s treasure. Consider taking gently used items to a local shelter, Value Village, Good Will, or used clothing charity boxes. Some organizations will come to your door to collect unwanted clothing and household items (often to be sold to Value Village). Check out your local Buy Nothing Project group (or start one!)
If you’re looking to earn some extra cash (maybe to save up for a more expensive, higher quality item), there are lots of options – local consignment stores, EBay, Craigslist, Kijiji, buy and sell groups on Facebook, or a good old fashioned garage sale.
Upcycle or Repurpose
Got Grandma’s furniture sitting in the garage? Consider reupholstering/painting/fixing it to fit in with your décor instead of buying new furniture. Turn ripped clothes, stained towels, old baby blankets, etc. into rags (and ditch your paper towel roll while you’re at it). There is no shortage of ideas on Pinterest and Etsy for those with a DIY flare.
In contrast to upcycling (which takes stuff and turns it into something of higher value than when it started), recycling takes waste and turns it into something of lower quality and value. This is definitely better than going straight to landfill, but isn’t as high on the list as most people think it is. Make sure you’re properly disposing of e-waste, batteries, CFL bulbs, etc. – many large building centre stores have collection boxes, or some municipalities have Community Environment Days where you can bring special items. Check with your municipality to see what is actually recyclable before putting in your blue bin (Toronto has a handy Waste Wizard for all waste types).
What are some creative things you’ve done to get rid of your stuff, without sending it to landfill?